Skip to main content

Full text of "Poland Russia and Great Britain 1941-1945"

See other formats


On June 22, 1941, however, the greatest and most ambitious plan ever
created in Russia and advocated by Lenin3 the plan for the conquest of
Europe at the end of a Second World War, appeared to collapse like a
house of cards. Numerically the greatest army built in one generation
by a constant and colossal effort and sacrifice, where, for the sake of
armament, the people had been deprived of even bread . . . this gigantic
army, predestined to spread the power of Russia westward under the
slogan of Revolution, was forced into an encounter, not with a weakened
Europe, exhausted by a long war and undermined by strife and conflicts,
as Stalin had anticipated (see Vol.i, p.i24), but with the victorious German
Army strengthened by the output of the factories of all Europe.

Stalin3 who a few years ago had solemnly declared that the Red Army
would beat the enemy " on the roads leading to the Soviet Union/* was
now compelled to watch the front-line of this same army crumple to
pieces in the battle of the frontier^ to watch the relentless overthrow of
the second-line; and to witness the lightning speed with which the
remnants retreated to the Dniepr river, then to die Volga, then to the
Caucasus—a retreat thousands of miles into the depth of the Russian
Empire.

The German radio resounded with triumphant fanfares glorifying the
Wehrrnacht with each seizure of a new town, after each passage of another
river^ after the capture of hundreds of thousands or millions of Russian
soldiers. " Soon," the German speakers declared with glee, " the last
blow would fall which will finish the Soviet armed forces and then the
Soviet regime." But this regime was hard to kill. The Kremlin paid a
terrible price for its mistake in judgment, for its wishful thinking and the
desire to keep its forces untouched until the end of the war. The
measures adopted in the Civil War were brought into use once again.
Political commissars were once more appointed among the forces,*
deserters were shot en masse5 the newly created marshals^ generals and
colonels were removed by thousands, the system of command overhauled
and all panic suppressed with an iron ruthlessness. The Army, although
still in retreat, again became a disciplined instrument in the hands of its
leader. The Soviet regime had been saved. Stalin had surmounted the
crisis, and when Hitler claimed, in October, 1941, that" a few more days
and victory would be final," Stalin alone in the Kremlin, after the de-
'parture of the Government to Kuibyshev, knew the end was much further
away than this, for the fast approaching winter would allow him to develop
all tie accumulated strength of Russia and send more forces, now in the
rear, to the front line,

The first six months of this war were the most tragic for the master

* The abohtion of the political commissars had taken place after the war against
Finland* Soviet dictatorship blamed them for the fiasco in the early periods of this
war. They were restored under the name of * military commissars' on Jufy 16th,

1Q41.     Tfiis was a triiimnh rvf fV»*a Parftr

80